June 30, 2021 — “The way the kids rallied… this is the most amazing year I've ever had, and I've been coaching now for 34 years,” said Coach Neil Wartnik of the Siuslaw boys wrestling team’s performance at the 4A State Championship held at Cascade High School last weekend, June 25 and 26.
It was a fantastic end to a season for the record books, with six out of eight athletes who went to state place sixth or better.
“Wow. That's the word,” he said. “It was an amazing weekend. I would compare the experience to what it is like riding the Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure, only this ride lasted 15 hours, and was split over two days.”
It was truly a special event to experience, and the energy of the team, the coaches and the parents who came to support their kids was palpable.
“The amazing matches they wrestled, the way they lifted each other up throughout the tournament, the huge upsets — there were so many,” said Wartnik. “We won so many matches we weren’t supposed to win.”
Coming into the tournament, Siuslaw’s highest seed was fifth place, with two others at sixth.
“We were predicted to take home three medals — all lower-level medals. Instead, we brought home six: two seconds for Elijah LaCosse and Christian Newlan, one third for Mason Buss, a fifth for Ryan Jennings, and two sixths for Yoskar DeLaMora and Dayne Muller,” Wartnik said.
All of the boys did an amazing job, and this tournament marks several new milestones for Wartnik as a coach.
“This was an unprecedented performance for my team in many ways,” he said. “This was the first time I have had a freshman place at state (Muller). It was the highest placement I have had by a sophomore (Buss). It was the most place-winners we have had during my tenure. The previous high was four, and it was the highest point total we have attained at state. I have been head coach for 26 years, and our previous high was 96 points in 2004.”
This year, the Vikings scored 101 points and placed sixth as a team overall, which means even more at this point because Siuslaw was not in the Central region in 2004. It is now the most competitive region in the state, so for so many of them to have made it as far as they did was an impressive feat.
In the 120 lb. weight class, DeLaMora wrestled six matches and won three, pinning Kyle Nichols of Henley and Baird Hagerty of Tillamook and defeating Froylan Santiago of Ontario by sudden victory 6-4. In his final match, Treyson Smith of Sweet Home won by decision 5-0 putting DeLaMora in sixth place overall, an incredibly respectable finish for the sophomore’s first time competing at the state level.
At 132 lbs., Hunter Petterson did not place, but he wrestled four incredible matches, defeating Hayden Kunz of Sisters by decision 14-7 and pinning Tayton Miller of Cascade in 3:35. Petterson was unfortunately injured during his final match, but still finished the match strong and only lost the decision by 2 points.
In the 145 lb. weight class, LaCosse took home second place, winning every match except the final. LaCosse pinned Marcos Grijalva of Ontario in 3:17, defeated Parker McKibbin of Tillamook by decision 11-7, and pinned Savien Burk of Mazama in 5:40. In the final, he was pinned by Brayden Newport of Sweet Home in 2:45.
At 160 lbs., Jennings won four out of six of his matches to take home fifth place for his first time attending the state tournament. Jennings defeated Cael White of Madras and Lamar Ward of La Grande by decision (8-6 and 8-1 respectively), as well as Jared Miller of Sisters by major decision 14-5. He then won the fifth-place match by pinning Gilbert Whitlatch of Tillamook in 5:30.
In the 170 lb. weight bracket, Mason Buss took third place and won five out of six of the matches he wrestled. He pinned Marcelo Camargo of Phoenix in 0:35, then went on to defeat Collin Switzler of Madras by decision 9-4. Buss pinned his last three opponents, including Rephael Mauck of Banks (3:48), Kaden Zajic of Sweet Home (0:27) and Wyatt Livingston of La Grande (1:22).
At 182 lbs., Muller took home sixth place and defeated three out of six of his opponents. Muller pinned Jacob Mills of Baker in 1:10, then went on to defeat Santi Roque of Woodburn and Charlie Crawford of Sweet Home by decision, 11-6 and 1-0 respectively. He was pinned in the fifth-place match by Ezekiel Heaton of Mazama in 2:43.
Finally, in the 220 lb. weight class, the Vikings had both JC Gentry and Newlan competing. While Gentry did not place, he represented his team well, and promises to have a strong season next year.
Newlan, who took home second place in his weight class, had a particularly special moment in the semifinal.
“Christian's performance was the most shocking, no question,” said Wartnik. “What he did in the semifinals was incredible. When he came off the mat, he gave teammate Hunter Petterson a hug and told him, ‘That was for you.’
“Hunter had a very disappointing loss earlier that morning,” the coach continued. “He was ahead 4-3 with 40 seconds remaining in the match when something ‘flukey’ happened. His opponent pushed him out of bounds and injured Hunter's shoulder — a pulled AC joint. Hunter could have chosen to stop wrestling at that point and won by injury default, but we chose to finish the match. With that injury, Hunter was impaired, and he ended up losing 6-5. It was heartbreaking; if he had won, we would have had 7 placers instead of 6.
“Christian's comment to Hunter coming off the mat spoke into Hunter's grief. That is the kind of men and team the 2021 Vikings were.”
Newlan defeated Nicholas Sigrah of Ontario by decision 4-0, then pinned Joseph Baynard of Phoenix in 5:40. In the semifinal, he pinned Lawson Talamantez of Seaside to go to the finals. He was pinned by Connor Kohn of Philomath in 1:35, but the two hugged at the end of the match, a very nice ending to the tournament.
It was inspiring to behold, and it only points more evidence to the statements Wartnik has made the whole season regarding the team’s level of caring for each other.
“We have never had a group that cared about each other and went to war as one like this team did,” said Wartnik. “This is a tribute to our three seniors, Ryan, Elijah, and Christian. They set the tone. They led the way. And the coaching staff is so proud of the entire group. They surprised the 4A world and made us all proud.”